In April 1970, Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) installed his ‘Block Beuys’ in the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt. To mark the 50th anniversary of this occasion, the exhibition documents the production of and alterations to this largest extent work complex in the world. Films, photographs and musical scores show how Beuys made previous use of objects from ‘Block Beuys’.
The exhibition sheds light on the context of selected works from ‘Block Beuys’ and exemplary actions. In 1963, Beuys, then a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, organised a FESTUM FLUXORUM FLUXUS. In 1964, a photograph showing Beuys with a bloody nose after a tumult at the ‘Festival of New Art’ in Aachen was disseminated by the press. In 1965, he demonstrated at the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldort ‘How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare’. These were followed by ‘Homogenous Infiltration for Grand Piano, The Greatest Contemporary Composer is the Contergan Child,’ ‘Felt TV’ and ‘MANRESA’. The exhibition then introduces ‘Primary Current FLUXUS’ ‘EURASIA STAFF’ from 1967 and finally ‘Titus Andronicus / Iphigenia’ from 1969.
‘Block Beuys’ is simultaneously a prime example for the birth of the West German art market of international significance. Through the intervention of Franz Dahlem and Heiner Friedrich, the Darmstadt industrial Karl Ströher acquired all the works from Joseph Beuys’s 1967 exhibition at the new Museum Mönchengladbach. He secured an access to the further production and committed himself to publically exhibiting all of the works as a whole. In 1968, Ströher acquired the extensive Pop Art collection of the New York insurance broker Leon Kraushar. Following a two-year exhibition tour, Ströher presented his collection as a long-term loan, making Darmstadt a venue of the avant-garde.
‘Block Beuys’ now consists of 290 works made between 1949 and 1972. They include expansive installations like ‘Transsiberian Rail’, ‘FOND II’ and ‘FOND III’, iconic works such as the famous first ‘Fat Chair’, the ‘Auschwitz Demonstration’ display case, ‘Mountain King’ and ‘Felt TV’ as well as drawings and watercolours on paper.
The seven rooms where ‘Block Beuys’ is exhibited makes up a fascinating artist’s museum within the museum. In this unique school of perception and wonder, it becomes evident that Beuys comprehended mysteriousness as an invitation to further intuitive thinking. He arranged his works without labels. Experiencing was more important for him than comprehending.
Beuys called his works vehicles that transported his ideas. The Darmstadt ‘Block Beuys’ is a storage facility in the sense of energy storage. In conjunction with the battery idea, Beuys stacked felt and copper as a reservoir of spiritual warmth and creativity. The works in the ‘Block Beuys’ have titles like ‘Transmitter’, ‘Electrode’, ‘Battery’, ‘Aggregate’ or ‘Fond’. Even the title ‘Block Beuys’ itself can be understood as a power plant.
As a visionary, Beuys is more topical than ever. Universal in his aspirations, he connects art, science and spirituality. He above all seeks in his performances to ‘make art so large that it can encompass every human activity’. In doing so, he not only still puts our notion of art to the test today but also our idea of the museum.